Major backs Mellor as Tories waver: The Prime Minister is coming under growing pressure to sack Cabinet minister but is standing firm

THE PRIME Minister was standing firm in his support of David Mellor yesterday, in spite of a growing expectation that further revelations about the alleged affair between the Cabinet minister and an actress could yet force his resignation as Secretary of State for National Heritage.

A Number 10 spokesman said: 'The Prime Minister's line has not changed.' John Major fully backed Mr Mellor, who would remain in office, with responsibility for the press and media.

But Ann Winterton, the first Conservative backbencher to go public with a call for Mr Mellor's resignation, was just the tip of a growing Tory iceberg, and she was joined by one of the most powerful men from the Tory tabloids, Sir David English, chairman and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers - the Mail group - who said he did not see how Mr Mellor could carry on.

The Daily Mail, which had hoped on Monday that Mr Mellor might survive, said yesterday: 'David Mellor's position as a Minister of the Crown is untenable.' The Sun carried 'soft' pornographic pictures under the front-page headline, 'Mellor girl's portion from the pizzaman'.

As for the beleaguered Mr Mellor, his department reported that it was 'business as usual'.

Mrs Winterton broke party ranks during a BBC radio interview, in which she said: 'People who go into public life know what the rules are, and know perfectly well that if certain matters are revealed which are embarrassing to them, their families and the Government, sadly they only have one option.'

Even Conservative Central Office was forced to concede: 'Time will tell . . .'

Sir David, the former editor of the Daily Mail and a friend of Mr Mellor's, told BBC radio: 'I think he will go because his position is just impossible . . .He has been moved from a minister for fun, to a figure of fun, to a figure of ridicule, and I just don't think he can continue.' But one of Sir David's own papers, the London Evening Standard, said: 'Mr Mellor should not be obliged to resign because people are making fun of him. He is an able minister.'

Dame Jill Knight, another Conservative backbencher, said: 'If the press, by a concerted attack on a politician - not on the way he does his job, but on something in his private life - can literally hound a man out of office, that has very worrying implications.'

Meanwhile, Peter Bottomley, the Conservative MP who criticised the Independent over a report that Virginia Bottomley had her first child before they married, and gave the child's name, defended the right of newspapers to be wrong and opposed any attempt to 'shackle' them with privacy legislation.

But Sir David Steel, the former Liberal leader, did not believe that the Prime Minister had ever favoured such legislation. 'I've reason to believe, having been in contact with him, that he's not in favour of a Privacy Bill along the lines that have been discussed with him, because he doesn't believe it can be workable,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Receptionist

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A bookkeeper/receptionist posit...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£28500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers unique corp...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Product Support Specialists

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in the design...

Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has 30 years of ex...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat